by Michael Shanler | February 6, 2014 | Comments Off on IT for Science and Engineering
Two years ago, while presenting at a laboratory informatics conference, I mentioned “PLM is coming.” PLM was never really on the radar for pharma R&D IT groups, but the software and methods for use had some opportunities to create value. “What is Pea-El-Em?…You mean CAD right?” Anyway, late last week, Dassault agreed to acquire Accelrys for a mountain of cash. $750M to be exact. If you use products from either of those companies, see the Gartner “First Take”.
In my view, this is a notable acquisition for the R&D IT and new product innovation (NPI) space because of what it symbolizes. Even if you don’t use or care about their products, it represents the first time that a PLM company has made a significant investment in scientific software (although a few other PLM companies have already developed pretty cool molecular modeling tools.) It symbolizes a bridge opportunity between engineering and scientific disciplines. It also reflects what many R&D and NPI thought leaders want for their own companies: Innovative products are often derived by blending knowledge from different disciplines. Autonomous vehicles, wearable devices, smart machines – all of these new buzzy products that will define a “new normal” were only made possible by blending knowledge from different disciplines (science, engineering, services, IT, etc.) The resulting technologies are also driving industry lines to blur, which is exposing even more business opportunities.
Regarding my prediction from 2 years ago…I look forward to the day where more scientists and engineers will eventually get access to at least a handful of common tools that will create linked data between the “real” & “virtual” worlds (i.e. the lab bench & in silico.) I also look forward to a future when researchers can better simulate designs across different scales (i.e. move from the molecular level <—-> to the material level <—-> to the sub-component <—-> to the finished good.) Granted it will take years before this can be done in practice across a wide range of disciplines, but the future is closer than most IT groups supporting NPI realize.
For most organizations, getting ready for a step-change will be a messy, nasty, ugly, and incredibly disruptive process. However, clients that can figure out how to set up multi-discipline collaboration spaces, cross-industry knowledge sharing, and prioritize their internal tool portfolio should come out ahead. Some IT leaders will need to blaze a trail. Unfortunately, many staff will get caught in the transition and be forced to move on. Either way, expect disruption and prepare for some serious changes to the portfolio as science and engineering converge.
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